Wednesday, July 16, 2008

They put WHAT on a billboard?

One of the secrets of billboard advertising is this: advertisers go for shock value but what they really want is for "legitimate" media to do a story about it. Here's a perfect example:

A billboard on display in Orange County, Florida shows the World Trade Center towers burning while telling passers-by: “Please Don’t Vote for a Democrat.” The local ABC News affiliate reports that the person responsible is a local musician “trying to help Republicans” but that “officials with both political parties are calling the billboard inappropriate.”

No matter how many people might drive by this billboard on a highly traveled road in Florida, that number pales in comparison to the national coverage it got on television news, blogs and online. Tomorrow you'll be reading about it in the local newspaper. This one relatively small expenditure for an in-your-face billboard leverages millions of dollars of free advertising (for this guy who apparently wrote a song and is trying to sell his CD).

Billboards, like most advertising, just don't have the credibility that press coverage does. So people who have controversial opinions, or who want to get free publicity by doing a tasteless ad campaign, will get a billboard so they'll get a story in the newspaper. That's how they really plan to sell their product or their idea.

This was my comment on one political blog, and a response:

I hate billboards no matter what's on them... and part of the reason is that there is NO restriction of what can go on them - money talks. The billboard company can sell space to whoever they want to (or decline to sell it, which happens a lot as well). So the billboard folks decide what is going to visually assault you while you're peacefully driving down the road.

A secret of outdoor advertising is that billboards like this are not intended to get you to change your mind - they're intended to get media coverage and then that's what gets a response. It worked, didn't it?


  • One of the things I like about Maine..... billboards. Just nice discreet little blue signs.

    • Vermont, too.

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